Phil Esposito was a Canadian ice hockey player known for his exceptional goal-scoring ability in the NHL. Esposito played centre for the Chicago Black Hawks, the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers throughout his 18-year NHL career. He was one of the most prolific goal-scorers of his era and one of the successful players ever in the NHL, winning numerous individual honors.
Phil Esposito was born in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, in 1942. He always had a passion for ice hockey throughout his youth and grew up playing the game with his older brother and future pro goaltender Tony Esposito.
Things weren’t easy for Esposito when he played junior hockey; he couldn’t break into his midget team at the age of 14 and failed to impress the junior A team, the St Catharines’ Teepees, at the age of 18. This led him to play junior B hockey in Sarnia.
Esposito managed to turn this setback into a positive though. During the 1960/61 season with Sarnia, Esposito scored 47 goals in 32 games, earning him a place back with the Teepees for the following season.
Esposito took his confidence into the 1961/62 season after earning his place with the Teepees and scored 32 goals in 49 games. The talented center progressed again in the following season after playing in the Central Hockey League for the St Louis Braves, scoring 90 points in 71 games.
Esposito’s scoring prowess didn’t go unnoticed by the Chicago Blackhawks; however, he was left waiting and played another 43 games in the minors, recording 80 points. It was enough to earn Esposito his first chance for the Blackhawks in January 1964.
Esposito made a limited impact in his first season, scoring just three goals. But his talent for goal-scoring flourished in the following season in Chicago. However, the peak of his career was between the late 1960’s and mid 70’s with the Boston Bruins, and ended with the New York Rangers.
Major achievements; including records, awards etc.
Esposito achieved all of his individual and team honors whilst playing for the Bruins. In his second season with the team, Esposito won his first of five Art Ross trophies after finishing as the top-scorer in the NHL with 49 goals. He also won his first of two Hart Memorial Trophies as the NHL’s MVP. To cap an outstanding season, Esposito set the record for the most points scored in a single season in 1969 with 126 – 49 goals and 77 assists.
Esposito also won four consecutive Art Ross awards between 1970 and 1974 with the Bruins. He shattered his own scoring record in 1970/71 season by amassing 152 points. This NHL record stood for 11 seasons before Wayne Gretzky scored 212 points for the Edmonton Oilers in 1981/82.
The Bruins won two Stanley Cups while Esposito represented the team, and he played a central role in their success in 1970 and 1972. In both of these seasons, Esposito finished as the Stanley Cup’s top scorer and top points scorer, while he was also the highest assist provider in the 1970 season.
Esposito left the Bruins in 1975 and reformed a struggling New York Rangers team, as he was was named captain immediately. Esposito led the Rangers’ charge for the Stanley Cup in the 1978/79 season, scoring at an extremely high rate. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough for New York to make any real playoff noise that season.
Esposito retired in 1981 with 717 goals and 873 assists in the NHL. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1984, at his earliest opportunity. He became a commentator for the Madison Square Garden network after a brief spell as the New York Rangers assistant coach following his retirement. He then became the Rangers general manager in 1986.